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TWO GRAMMY NERDS
DISCUSS THE NOMINATIONS

Your favorite Grammy nerds were up at the crack of dawn Tuesday (11/28) to pore over the nominations list for the 60th annual Grammy Awards. Bleary-eyed and opinionated, they got on the horn to compare notes. Let's listen in...


Paul: I was floored that Ed Sheeran was passed over for Album, Record and Song of the Year.

Lenny: That seems to be the general consensus—that he’s the one who got whacked the most.

Paul: The only thing that makes sense to me is that the Nominations Review Committee thought if he was nominated in those categories, there might well be an Ed Sheeran sweep like there was an Adele sweep last year—and that wasn’t the image that they wanted to project two years in a row. These are both great artists, but the Grammys have a history of awarding mainstream pop artists at the expense of edgier artists. So they said, “We just won’t give the voters that option.” I think that’s unfair to Ed, because he deserved to be nominated in all three categories. I see the logic to what they did—or what I think they did—but Ed seems to have suffered because of the Grammys’ image problem; their history of being conservative. It’s not his fault, but he paid a price.

Lenny: Right.

Paul: I was a little surprised that Miranda Lambert wasn’t nominated for Album of the Year, but I was shocked that she wasn’t even nominated for Best Country Album.

Lenny: Yeah, I saw that too. That was shocking.

Paul: I don’t get it. It won the ACM for Album of the Year and was nominated for the CMAs. Go figure.

Lenny: This was the first time in 14 years that country was completely shut out of the Big Four categories.

Paul: That’s true. Here’s an odd twist: Jay-Z was a Record of the Year nominee that year (2003) for his featured role on Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” just as he’s a Record of the Year nominee this year for “The Story of O.J.”

Lenny: Remind me to never get into a Grammy trivia contest with you. On Miranda, maybe they just felt it was old.

Paul: It may have suffered for that reason. But Bruno’s album came out the very same week. What do you think of Bruno being up for Album, Record and Song? He and Jay-Z are the only ones to sweep all three categories.

Lenny: Can we consider that his CBS-TV special is a factor?

Paul: Sure. I think the Grammys like to be a good partner to their network and help out when they can. In general, their interests coincide. I wonder if there will be any blowback to Bruno’s nominations in the R&B field (R&B Album, R&B Performance, R&B Song). There’s a soulful quality to his record, but he’s a pop chameleon. Last time out, he did a funk record (“Uptown Funk!”). Before that, he did a record that echoed The Police (“Locked out of Heaven”). That doesn’t mean he was a funk artist or a rock artist. He’s so versatile, he could probably dabble in any style. That doesn’t mean he is that.

Lenny: He’s amazing. I didn’t think this was his best work, but I’m still a fan.

Paul: Sam Smith wasn’t nominated for Record or Song for “Too Good at Goodbyes,” which shocked me. He’s not even nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance. I guess you could argue that he played it a little too safe; that it was right in his “Stay With Me” lane and they didn’t see any artistic growth. But I like it a lot.

Lenny: We’ve got to talk about Taylor Swift.

Paul: I give them credit for withstanding the pressure to nominate “Look What You Made Me Do” for Record of the Year. CBS would have loved it if she’d been nominated, but it wasn’t her best work. If that had been up for Record, it would have said if you’re a megastar and they need you on the show, you’re almost assured of being nominated. I think this record was designed to get attention and get people talking about her. On that level, it succeeded, but it didn’t deserve a Record of the Year nom. She’ll be back in the running for Record of the Year, but it should be for great records, not just attention-getting ones.

Lenny: She cut through the white noise and kudos to her for that. She’s up for Best Country Song for the song she wrote for Little Big Town and Best Song Written for Visual Media for the song she recorded with ZAYN. So she ended up with two nominations—and as Neil Portnow once said to me, “Every Grammy nomination is good.”

Paul: Yeah, but some are better than others. Kesha’s “Praying” was passed over for Record and Song of the Year. In the year of all these scandals, I’m surprised that a song that comments on it was passed over. That’s probably the story of the year, the closet door opening to expose all these stories of powerful men exploiting women. Just as they put “1-800” up for Song of the Year, I expected that this would be up for Song of the Year. I can’t imagine why it wasn’t.

Lenny: She is up for Best Pop Solo Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album, so even though she didn’t get one of the Big Three, she got two good ones.

Paul: I was surprised that Harry Styles didn’t get any noms

Lenny: As was I.

Paul: He wasn’t even nominated for Best Rock Album. I think it was put in the wrong genre category. It should have been put in Best Pop Vocal Album. Maybe it seemed out of place to rock voters. Maybe he would have been nominated if he’d been put in pop. He would have been the hippest, edgiest choice in the pop category. Instead, he was the most mainstream, commercial choice in rock. It’s all about positioning.

Lenny: I thought “Sign of the Times” was going to get a nomination for Record or Song of the Year. I’m very surprised it was passed over for both. Maybe not having a second hit from the album hurt him.

Paul: Clearly it did in Album of the Year. They could say it was a one-hit album. I’m not sure why that should matter for Record or Song. Lorde’s nomination for Album of the Year was a little bit of a surprise.

Lenny: We both had it as a Level 2 possible.

Paul: Yes, but it did a little better than we thought. It wasn’t nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, which suggests the committee gave it a friendly boost to get it into the top five. Whenever the (rank-and-file) voters pass on something in the genre album or performance categories and it winds up with a Big Four nomination, you kind of know that it was a committee pick.

Lenny: I think it was a good committee pick. You had mentioned that it got great numbers on Metacritic (91, putting it in third place for the year-to-date) and it was one of the best reviewed albums of the year. So on that level it’s not surprising and it’s well-earned.

Paul: I see your point: The Grammys aren’t supposed to just be about commercial success. Bruno’s album was a blockbuster. There should also be room for something like Lorde that was a smaller hit.

Lenny: What do you think about Jay-Z being everywhere?

Paul: That surprised me.

Lenny: Some people are calling it a make-up for Beyoncé not winning any of the Big Three awards last year. How do you feel about that?

Paul: It’s possible that was a factor. I think it’s kind of a crazy factor to take into account. They’re two artists who can certainly stand on their own. I think a more valid reason to put him up for Album of the Year is that he had never been nominated in that category (as a lead artist) after 20 years of consistent success. It was kind of a black mark on the Grammys that he had never been up for Album of the Year. They had an opportunity this year to correct that—and they seized it. They also had an opportunity to correct it with Metallica, which has never been up for Album of the Year—but they didn’t seize that one. I guess with Jay-Z they said, “Let’s fix this first.”

Lenny: I think this is a Lifetime Achievement nomination.

Paul: That’s a good way of putting it. The nomination for Album of the Year didn’t surprise either of us greatly—we both had it as an alternate pick—but the fact that “The Story of O.J.” is up for Record of the Year and the title song is up for Song of the Year surprises me. Neil has said that the finalists in the Big Four categories are culled strictly from entries that make the top 20 on the voters’ lists—not the top 30 or top 40 or top 50. Quite frankly, based on these two entries, I’m a little skeptical of that.

Lenny: I think Childish Gambino is amazing also. He (Donald Glover) won two Emmys this year. Who knows what else he’ll win? On another subject, I’m glad they took care of (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s) “Despacito” in lots of places. It deserved it.

Paul: That’s Justin (Bieber)’s second Song of the Year nomination (following “Love Yourself” last year). Good for him. I like him, and I like the job Scooter Braun has done with him. As of this year, he’s been nominated in each of the Big Four categories over the course of his career.

Lenny: I agree. Scooter has done an amazing job. I also credit Steve Bartels for staying the course when things got tough. Justin was down at the bottom and they’ve brought him back to the very top. I was happy that Lady Gaga at least got something for “Million Reasons.” That’s a great song. She’s up for Pop Solo Performance and Pop Vocal Album. Also, I see that Logic is up for Song for “1-800-273-8255.” I felt very strongly that he was going to get one of the two—Song or Record. Well deserved.

Paul: Yet he isn’t nominated for Best New Artist. Both of his featured artists on that record (Alessia Cara and Khalid) are nominated and he isn’t, which has got to sting a little bit.

Lenny: Let’s talk more about Best New Artist.

Paul: This is the category where we did the best. I expected four of the five (Khalid, Alessia Cara, SZA and Lil Uzi Vert). I had Logic for the other one and it would up being Julia Michaels. I’m happy for her because she was the frontrunner in the early going and then kind of faded, but she got a Best New Artist nomination.

Lenny: She’s also up for Song of the Year. It was a good year for new artists. Post Malone, Kane Brown, Jon Pardi and Cardi B got squeezed out.

Paul: I would love to hear Neils phone call to Ed Sheeran.

Lenny: I would love to have heard Neil’s phone call to Justin Timberlake (who many thought was snubbed four years ago).

Paul: You don’t let go (laughs).

 

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